Tim Campos, former CIO of Facebook, is now founder and CEO of Woven, a startup tackling the world of calendaring. Brian Ardinger, Inside Outside Innovation Founder talks with Tim about the future of innovation, how IT infrastructure has changed, what it’s like to work in a high growth startup, and what it’s like to rebuild a company from scratch.
Brian Ardinger: On this week’s episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Tim Campos, the former CIO of Facebook and new entrepreneur with a company called Woven that is tackling the whole world of calendaring. We had a chance to talk about the future of innovation, how IT infrastructure has changed, what it’s like to work in a high growth startup, and then what it’s like to rebuild a company from scratch.
Inside Outside innovation is the podcast that brings you the best and the brightest in the world of startups and innovation. I’m your host Brian Ardinger, founder of InsideOutside.IO. A provider of research events and consulting services that help innovators and entrepreneurs build better products, launch new ideas, and compete in a world of change and disruption.
Each week we’ll give you a front row seat to the latest thinking tools, tactics, and trends, and collaborative innovation. Let’s get started. Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host Brian Ardinger, and as always, we have another amazing guest. Today is Tim Campos. He is the former CIO at Facebook from 2010 to 2016 he was a VP of it at semiconductor company, KLA-Tencor, and he has recently jumped back into the startup scene with his own company called Woven. Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim Campos: Thanks for having me. I’m super excited to be here.
Brian Ardinger: I’m excited to have you on board because I think you can speak to a lot of the things that our audience is interested in hearing about. Everything from startups to corporate innovation, and you seem to have played a role in a variety of those different types of spaces and are continuing to do so. Let’s start in the Facebook world. How you got there and what’s it like to work with a high-growth company when you have to double the productivity of employees when they’re growing at 20 X growth rate.
Tim Campos: It gets crazy enough just to double the number of employees. And to do that time and time again every year. Yeah, so I got to Facebook. It was really a big culmination of a lot of aspects in my career. When I started, I was an engineer, software engineer, and I’ve always loved technology and building. I spent the first half of my career in software engineering and then got exposed to IT at a startup when I was working in a software as a service company. And that really taught me. Two things. One, what you build and what people use those different perspectives and technology as you do that. But also there’s a business around technology and that’s really what got me interested in information technology and how I became CIO. And ultimately that landed me at Facebook.
But my life has very much been defined by building things that help make people more productive, help people get more stuff done and that taken care of steer through what I’m doing today with Woven mind startup as a productivity software company and this is what we exist to do, is help people spend time on what matters most.
Corporate Innovation Obstacles
Brian Ardinger: We’ll talk a little bit about Woven and get into what you’re doing and how you’re disrupting the world of calendaring and, and other spaces. But I want to talk a little bit about your background and experience in this corporate innovation front. From the standpoint of when you’re working with a company like Facebook and you’re trying to lead an organization and all the technology that’s required to make people work better together, what are some of the biggest obstacles with companies staying lean and mean and innovative, and obviously Facebook is thought of as that type of company to grow that fast. What are some of the obstacles or things that you learned going through that process?
Tim Campos: There are actually somewhat both obvious but non-intuitive at the same time. Here’s a few nuggets that are absolute truisms of innovation. And this doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup or a big company, whether you’re Facebook or an Apple type company, or a book company in the middle of the country. Innovation is the result of several things. Obviously smart people, that is a part of it. A lot of companies have really, really smart people.
It starts with a willingness to fail. If you are not willing to have something not work out, then what ends up happening is you follow the tried and true.
It starts with a willingness to fail. If you are not willing to have something not work out, then what ends up happening is you follow the tried and true. You follow the beaten path. Let’s not make a mistake on how we are upgrading our financial systems, so we’re going to do it the way that everybody else has done it. That is by definition not innovative.
Innovative companies have at their core, a willingness to experiment and for those experiments not to work out and so it’s provocative, but if you are able to embrace failure and welcome failure, then you have one of the core ingredients to be innovative. Conversely, if you’re a failure is not an option and you will succeed no matter what type of environment, you’re not going to draw a lot of innovation out of your workforce. So that’s the first thing.
Second thing is innovation is a result of white space. Do people have time to think differently? When you’re super busy and you’re very deadline driven, the problem that that creates is you have, once again fall back on the tried and true. It’s basically another way of saying that failure is not an option because you don’t have any cushion in your schedule, so you’re going to have to revert back to the tried and true. So that’s another thing that companies often overlook is they don’t create the time for their employees to experiment and to do new things.
Innovation is a result of white space. Do people have time to think differently?
At Facebook it was solved through things like hackathons, right? That was predefined white space at the entire company would have to go and experiment on new ideas that in those cases people can pick whatever it is that they want to do. Facebook also had the concept of a hack a month, which was more for the individual. We’re going to give you a period of time off, where you’re going to be able to experiment and think about the things that are separate from your day to day job. Google is famous for its 20% time. That’s just another way of creating white space. All of these are different techniques for creating the space for employees to experiment.
Optimizing or Innovation?
Brian Ardinger: In that role of experimentation, that how do you balance the fact that you are building this optimization engine that you’ve got to keep going forward, but you knowing full well that that’s going to be disrupted tomorrow if you don’t do some new things? How do you incentivize the folks? Is it something that has to come from the Zuckerberg and the people at the top pushing that down, or is that something that can be created moments at the grassroots level?
Tim Campos: It’s very hard to do from the grassroots level. it’s possible, but when that happens, people are going to essentially be incorporating their own time into things. Much more powerful than the leadership of an organization is declaring that this is okay. Failure is okay. White space is going to be afforded, and you can put this into your plans. I mean, let’s take an analog from financial services, right? When we talk about, we’ve got a hundred dollars to invest and we’re going to invest in companies, the best processes is that you distribute your money into different kinds of asset classes.
Some things go into safe investments and some things go into more risky investments. The risky investments have higher risk reward. But in the short term, they may do worse. You’re gonna buy stocks. Sometimes the stock goes down, but if I want to loan my money to the bank, I’m only going to get a fixed interest rate and I’m guaranteed to get paid back from the bank.
So low risk, but low return. Same thing is true for a corporation, and we’ll look at all the time that our human capital affords us. We can take a portfolio approach, and I’m not advocating that companies put at risk all of the things that they do. Just that they should take carve out a little bit of extra space. There’s a good return on this.
We can see this with a performance of venture capital funds, again, to take another analog from financial services. Why do venture capital funds like Andreessen Horowitz and Battery Ventures exist? It’s because there’s a good business in investing in these experimental things. In their case, those experimental things are called startups. And everybody knows that the most startups fail. Most startups don’t achieve their objectives, but the ones that do produce so much incremental value, that’s more than pay for everything else and you just never know which ones are going to succeed. It’s really, really hard. And the only way to then be able to get that is to experiment with a lot of different things.
Sponsor: Husch Blackwell
Brian Ardinger: Hey, listeners, I wanted to pause this episode for a brief word from our sponsor Husch Blackwell. Get Started Omaha is the premier startup event for the Omaha startup community, providing an opportunity for startups, investors, the business community, and others in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to come together to celebrate Omaha’s startup scene.
As a supportive member of the startup community, Husch Blackwell is proud to be this year’s presenting sponsor with prizes for each of our industry track winners and a final grand prize. Over $75,000 in cash and in-kind services will be awarded in support of the startup community. We’re looking for startups, sponsors, and everything in between to help make this event a success. And we hope you’ll join us. Learn more at www.Getstartedomaha.com. Now, back to the show.
Future of IT
Brian Ardinger: I’m curious to get your insights on how the world of IT and technologies will evolve. I think back 20-30 years ago when I was in this space working for Gartner, and that technology was a vertical. You know, it was something that worked within the organization and it was its own deal. Now it seems to be like, you know, obviously technology is eating the world, software’s eating the world, and it’s much more of a horizontal function. What are your thoughts and insights on how the world of IT has changed? How the world of IT and engineering has changed, and what do you see happening in this space?
Tim Campos: You gave a pretty good summary, and I think this has actually been a long-term trend from the 80s when mainframes were permeating our work environment to the 90s when we started to move towards client server. And then you have the internet and there’s a little bit of an over-investment in the internet, that also coincided with Y2K and the problem that we had to address there.
So then you kind of had a hangover in the first part of the decade and the new millennia. Still, the technology was continuing to evolve and with cloud computing and then software as a service, and then things like mobile devices and smartphones really permeating and what that has done, it just continues to open up new opportunities to use technology to drive value. And what we have seen with businesses is you have gone from businesses that in the 80s could have easily been run without hardly any technology at all. So now today, even the most mundane of businesses, you could be running a farm, a dairy farm in upstate New York. You’re still using tons and tons of technology to get more efficiency out of your business.
And all businesses are sort of like this. So IT or information technology has really permeated all aspects of our lives. And that’s going to continue. Let’s look at what the new trends are. You have things like machine learning and artificial intelligence, which means that we can ask computers now to do things which are more fuzzy, softer in nature that were in the past, we had to code it, you know, if they had to do that. Now we can teach the machines some general rules and have it figure out a bunch of stuff on its own that expands what we can use technology to do. 5G networks, most people don’t really understand what this technology is and what it’s going to mean, but at the end of the day, it’s going to make more devices connected.
We already see some of this. Cars are connected. You know, sometimes refrigerators are connected, lights are connected. We’re going to see even more just, an order of magnitude explosion of devices connected. And then in the distant future you have this really, really, really amazing technology with quantum computing that’s coming our way. That is going to transform how we use technology, and it’s even hard to envision what that impact will be because just a few years ago, that was like a fantasy, to be able to do things at 1,000, 10,000 or a 100,000 times the speed of what our computers can do today. But now it’s starting to become a reality.
And then in the distant future you have this really, really, really amazing technology with quantum computing that’s coming our way. That is going to transform how we use technology,
And within our lifetimes, we’ll see that technology penetrate. And so, as the technology continues to evolve. It changes business, it changes what it is. How we want to use technology. This can disrupt certain industries like healthcare is one which is in the process of being disrupted. That’s going to be a very different universe in 20-30 years. It’s already happened for news. We’ve seen what you’re doing today with the podcast wasn’t possible and 1995 you would have to have millions of dollars of startup capital to build a radio station or a production studio and all this stuff, which now you can do, which allows your business to be 100% focused on content. Creativity and not the infrastructure. The technology has permeated this, what we’re doing right now.
Productivity Tools: Woven
Brian Ardinger: Yeah. Access to market, all the fun things. I think it comes down to, it’s a good segue to productivity tools. And you know, the ability for the average Joe, so to speak, to be able to engage and work with, and use technology in different ways. The whole no-code movement, for example, the ability for. Individuals to have more of a say in what they’re doing, how they’re building it. And it fits into what you’re building in your next phase of life here with your company Woven. So why don’t we talk a little bit about what Woven is and, and where you see this change in productivity tools and the democratization of innovation.
Tim Campos: Woven is at its core a system to help people spend time on what matters most. And we do this by taking a piece of technology that we’re all familiar with, the calendar, and we make the calendar smarter, more intelligent, more capable, so that can help us get done the things that really matter. Why is this interesting?
One of the truisms facts is that time is fixed. There’s only 24 hours in a day. And it doesn’t matter who you are, how well off you are. You cannot buy more time. Mark Zuckerberg, one of the richest people in our country, has the same amount of time that you and I do. So what defines us is how we choose to spend that time. There is no good or bad on this. Not everybody wants to be Mark Zuckerberg. Some people want to be amazing philanthropists and want to really give to their community. Some people want to be amazing parents, but they’ve become that by choosing how they’re going to spend their time and amazing current is not going to spend all their time traveling away from their family.
What we’ve built with Woven is a way for people to start using this technology for the calendar, to solve these problems. Now, today we’re focused on a very simple idea. How does stuff get on your calendar? Because your calendar, if we’re going to use it, it needs to be easy to use and it should be easy to put all of our time on the calendar and scheduling events with other people. It’s really complicated. It takes a lot of time. I want to meet with you. You want to meet with me. We don’t know when each other can meet, so we end up writing emails and sending text messages and it’s just amazing how stuck in stone we are.
So really all we’re doing with Woven is to bring in these clues to modern day, we’re making it possible for people to link their calendars temporarily so that I can share a portion of my availability with you, not my entire calendar, but my portion of my availability, and you can then pick the time that’s going to work for you on your calendar.
And if we’re both Woven users woven will automatically fuse that so that the times that you’re looking at are only the times that work for both of us. It’s a huge time saver. We can schedule meetings with literally one 10th the level of effort. I am as busy, if not busier than I was at Facebook, and I still don’t have an executive assistant, and the reason for that isn’t because I don’t buy the role, it’s because all of my calendaring activities assistance takes care of it for me.
Automating the Calendar
Brian Ardinger: As we get busier and busier, you have to have a person and the cost of that person to manage a calendar. It seems crazy with all the technology and all the things that we have nowadays, that can’t be a solvable problem and, in some form or fashion, so I appreciate you trying to take a stab at that.
Tim Campos: We all have it to some degree, and you’re right, the busier you are, the more you may need a dedicated person to handle things, but it’s not the best use of capital resources. So if we’re going to be more productive, let’s figure out how to automate this. And there’s a bunch of basic things that machines can do today to help us with that automation. And essentially, we’ve just built that into Woven. It makes scheduling easier.
Creating Value with the Calendar
Brian Ardinger: Let’s talk a little bit about how that works. My understanding is the Holy grail of calendaring would be something that would analyze your schedule, your locations, and your commute times, your meeting habits, and take a look at that and say, here’s the best way to allocate that time, or use that time. Talk a little bit where you’re at now and where do you see the vision of Woven going.
Tim Campos: You know that is the Holy grail of calendaring. But one thing that people sort of overlook is that you don’t have to go from A to Z all at once in order to create value. Let’s take an analog with cars. You know, the Holy grail of cars is that the car will drive itself. And we have a company called Google, which has been for the better part of a decade and a half working on self-driving cars and they have the smartest people in the world doing this. And yet they still don’t have a self-driving car that we can utilize. We still don’t have a self-driving car, but we can have a car that has cruise control.
But one thing that people sort of overlook is that you don’t have to go from A to Z all at once in order to create value.
We’ve had cruise control for 20 years. Tesla has made it possible for us to have a car that will stay in a lane on the freeway and do some basic self-driving capabilities. Yeah. Woven is basically the same idea for your calendar. It’s really, really hard to build a calendar that is going to be an exact clone of your brain making all the decisions of, should I take this meeting conflict or not, but it was not hard to solve some of the basics of, I’m free next week at these times.
Let’s share that information with somebody else in a way that they can quickly and easily consume. And that’s what the product does, and it does it by a couple simple ideas. One, you teach Woven what kind of events you have. For example, a coffee meeting shouldn’t be at six o’clock at night and it’s going to be at a coffee shop. Date night with my wife is in the evenings and on specific days. Woven can learn what those things are and as it’s taught these things, then I can just instruct it what to do. Woven, can you please offer coffee times to this person? Those are just a couple of simple ideas that we have built in the system to make it so people don’t have to spend time getting things scheduled.
Going from Facebook to a small startup
Brian Ardinger: Now you’re an entrepreneur back into the early days of building a company from scratch versus the days with a startup like Facebook is high growth and venture capital and all these fun things. So now you’re probably back to a smaller team and more control and everything along those lines. What’s the difference in, how are you seeing your life change from going from a big company to a small startup?
Tim Campos: Some things are absolutely no different at all. There’s a lot of aspects in Facebook’s culture that we love, and we’ve brought into our company. Larger organizations are about, the biggest challenge is getting people to sort of beat to the same drum, align and coordinate hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of people to go and same direction. Startups don’t have that problem, but they have to do something very different.
That’s probably the biggest difference, is moving from an environment where it’s all about communicating and coordinating with employees to more about experimentation and learning and innovation.
Which is, it’s not so much about coordinating people because you don’t have that many people to coordinate. But you have to experiment. Because you don’t know exactly how your technologies work and whether you’ve even built it right, so you have to really move very, very quickly. That’s probably the biggest difference is moving from an environment where it’s all about communicating and coordinating with employees to more about experimentation and learning and innovation.
For More Information
Brian Ardinger: If folks want to find out a little bit more about yourself or about Woven, what’s the best way to do that?
Tim Campos: I would love to hear from them. I’m on twitter @tcampos and if you want to learn more about the product, Woven.com. And we are also in the iOS and Mac and windows application storage, search for Woven. Or just do a Google search to find us.
Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well Tim, I appreciate you spending the time with us to talk a little bit about IT and innovation and all the things that are happening in this world. I look forward to hearing good things in the future.
Tim Campos: Awesome.
Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content or services, check out insideoutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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